By Guest Blogger, Kathleen George
I need a GPS system for everyday life because I’m severely challenged when it comes to directions, maps, anything that indicates how a person gets from one place to another. Yet I dare to put Pittsburgh, the city, in my novels. To do so, the cops and criminals have to go where I go, eat what I eat. And most of the time, I have to research how to get them there.
But I love using Pittsburgh as a setting. I’m attracted to the mood and the ethos here—we are a gritty, cheerful working class city. I love putting my cops and criminals on the bridges, driving the parkway, in the parks, in the restaurants.
There was the old view of Pittsburgh—dirty and unsophisticated. Films like the Preston Sturges Sullivan’s Travels and the dark Requiem for a Heavyweight make jokes about how undesirable it would be to end up in our city. But now we’re rated the #1 livable city in America by Places Rated Almanac for 2007. Some of the beauty of Pittsburgh will surely be featured in the film of Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. I’m especially thrilled every time the young boy, Shane, in Showtime’s Weeds (trying to save his family from disaster, constantly doing research on the Internet) says he knows where they need to go to make everything right—Pittsburgh. We’ve surely arrived as desirable on the national scene.
But those who were here a long time ago still love the place. The Post-Gazette of December 3 features a photographer/CEO of Hearst Publishing who not only fondly remembers living here, but has done a book of photos of the city.
The editor for my novel, AFTERIMAGE, the legendary Ruth Cavin, was born and raised in Pittsburgh. She attended what was then Carnegie Tech. She must surely have eaten in Cantor’s and Weinsteins restaurants. As I did. She’s now eighty-eight years old and still smarter than everybody else around her. When I directed her to my website and especially to the section called A Cop’s Culinary Tour of Pittsburgh, she wrote to me that she was having this fantasy: “to find a small house near the Carnegie campus (Please! That’s Car-NEG-ie!, you New York dopes!) and settle down happily.”
If she comes for so much as a visit, I will happily drive her around. I can get her to Tessaro’s, Primanti’s, Squirrel Hill, Carnegie Mellon and Pitt Campuses. Who cares if we get lost downtown, there’s plenty to see. If she wants to go to Swissvale or Moon Township, I will need a GPS system.
Kathleen George is a professor of theatre at Pitt and the author of TAKEN, FALLEN, and AFTERIMAGE. http://www.kathleengeorgebooks.com